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S&W M&P22 Compact, right side

A perennial unanswered question in the firearm world is: “why won’t Glock make a .22LR handgun?”  There is no definitive answer.  Glock isn’t talking, which is why it’s a perennial unanswered question.

I suspect it’s because the engineering for a .22 semiautomatic pistol is quite different than the engineering required to produce the striker fired design that has made “Glock” a generic term for semiautomatic handgun. My guess, for what little it’s worth, is it would be more trouble to design and make than Glock thinks it’s worth. They’re already doing very well indeed with one of the most successful handgun designs of all time.

Fortunately, Smith and Wesson has taken up some of that slack with their Military and Police 22 Compact.  There are a great many successful, excellent .22 pistol designs, such as the recently redesigned Ruger Mark IV pistols (redesigned primarily to make reassembly easier).  However, for those of us that train new shooters, such guns present a few problems.

They do not have slides like centerfire handguns–the manual of arms is different–and are single action designs with triggers much lighter and with much less travel than their larger cousins.  That’s why a Glock in .22LR would be such a boon.  A handgun that handles like larger Glocks, but uses far less expensive ammunition, would be an ideal teaching tool.  Learn the basics with the .22, and transition more or less seamlessly to the larger calibers, which use the same manual of arms.

Ruger SR22

There are .22s on the market, like the Ruger SR22 and the Walther P22, that resemble larger, more conventional centerfire semiautos, but both are exposed hammer, double action designs.  As the late Col. Jeff Cooper said, double action mechanisms are an ingenious solution to a non-existent problem.  I’d prefer not to confuse new shooters with a double action trigger as they transition to single action or Glock-like actions.

The closest to ideal .22 I’ve been able to find is the S&W M&P 22 Compact.   It’s a “single action”–according to S&W–design with an internal hammer. It cannot be thumb cocked.  It is not a striker-fired design.  In addition, as is common with European pistol designs such as the P22, the barrel is fixed to the frame, which probably aids intrinsic accuracy.  Like Glock designs, the frame is polymer, but unlike Glock, the slide is aluminum with a steel insert. The Compact is therefore very light, but with the .22LR, this is not a problem.  Recoil is very mild and will not be daunting for even the smallest, youngest shooter.

Like Glocks, the right side of the pistol (header photo) is clean, apart from the ambidextrous safety, which is properly placed and positive in operation.  It easily snicks on and off in the manner of a 1911: up/safe; down/fire.

The left side controls will be familiar to the owners of a great many brands of handgun, including the larger caliber Smiths.  The small hole in the rear of the frame at the rear of the slide is for a trigger lock. Two keys are provided with the handgun. Moving toward the muzzle is the safety, the slide lock/release, and above the trigger, the take down lever of conventional design.  The magazine release button is conventionally placed, easy to manipulate, and does not accidentally activate in normal handling.

The compact comes with two stainless steel, ten-round magazines.  They are well made and easy to load.This handgun has a magazine disconnector. With the magazine well empty, the trigger is deactivated.  This can be a training issue, and if the gun is used for self-defense, can also be a problem, however, owners mechanically inclined can deal with the problem quickly and easily, and so can gunsmiths, though I suspect S&W would claim such alteration would void any warranty.  The followers of the magazines work perfectly and positively lock back the slide when the last round has been fired.  When the magazine release button is pushed, the magazines effortlessly drop free.

A nice feature is a fully adjustable rear sight.  Many contemporary handguns have only a drift-adjustable rear sight.  Elevation is accomplished with a screwdriver, but windage is done with  a small Allen wrench–provided–of the kind that easily disappears into the Tiny Allen Wrench Black Hole.  The sights of my Compact were dead on, so no adjustment was necessary, but I suspect the sight is up to S&W’s usual standards.  Also visible in the above photo is the loaded chamber indicator, which in this case is a hole in the top of the slide that allows the shooter to see if there is brass in the chamber.  This can also easily be done with a manual chamber check.

Crimson Trace CMR-201 laser sight

Sharp eyed readers will have also identified the Crimson Trace CMR-201 laser.  It’s a very compact (red laser) unit that retails for $139.00 direct from Crimson Trace, but I’ve seen them for as little as $84.00 on Amazon.  I got this particular unit for free when I bought a Railmaster Pro direct from CT some months ago during a special promotion. It too was spot on. All CT lasers are beautifully designed and made and work perfectly; I’ve never been disappointed by one.  The small lever at the bottom-rear of the unit–it’s ambidextrous–is the activation switch.  It’s positive in operation, and easily operated with the index finger, which should be in register prior to firing in any case.

This too is good for training.  New shooters can learn to properly use the “iron” sights, and transition to the laser. In addition, the laser provides a visual reference to diagnose trigger control issues.   CT will provide batteries, free, for life if you buy from them.  I change the batteries in my carry lasers every two years, though I suspect they’d last longer.

Some always argue that the batteries of lasers can fail when you most need them, and what then?  Use the iron sights.  My eyesight isn’t what it once was, and I find the laser useful, but can use iron sights if necessary.

Taking down the Compact for cleaning is very simple.  Remove the magazine and lock back the slide.  Visually, and with the tip of the little finger, confirm the chamber is empty. Flip the take down lever down–it’s easy.  Fully retract the slide until you can lift the rear of the slide upward, off the slide rails.  If the slide is fully retracted, it’s easy to lift.  Ease the slide forward, off the barrel.  This leaves three groups: the slide, the barrel/frame, and the recoil spring. Smith has wisely designed the recoil spring/guide–it’s an integral unit–so it can’t be incorrectly installed, but to save time, be sure to observe its proper orientation when removing it from the frame.

It’s easy to clean, which is a necessity with .22LR ammunition, which tends to be much dirtier than centerfire rounds.  Because this is a .22, there is less room to work with than with a larger caliber, but Q Tips work wonders.  Assembly is in reverse order and is equally easy.  Smith’s instruction manual is well designed and easy to follow.

Glock 19 (top); Compact (bottom)

Another advantage of the Compact is its size.  The P22 and SR22 are quite small, but the Compact is larger than those, but smaller than the size of a Glock 19 or any other intermediate framed semiauto.  It is narrower in the grip than the staggered magazine Glock, and because the slide is aluminum rather than steel, much lighter, but anyone learning on the Compact will not find a centerfire handgun uncomfortable or intimidating.

Shooting the Compact is very pleasant.  My copy was entirely reliable right out of the box, firing more than 200 rounds without the slightest issue.  It is very accurate, particularly for a handgun with a 3.6” barrel. It’s interesting that the weapon is probably more accurate with the laser because it’s attached to the frame, just like the barrel, but shooting it offhand, I could not detect any real difference.  It can easily shoot 3” groups, offhand, from 15 yards.

As previously mentioned, recoil is very mild, making quick follow up shots easy.  The trigger breaks cleanly at around five pounds and reset is immediate and positive. The slide is easily manipulated, which might make this a good choice for people with slight hand strength, though the .22 is a marginal self-defense round.  Smith makes a version of its popular Shield model called the EZ in .380 ACP.   Its slide is very nearly as easy to manipulate as the Compact’s, and the weapons are nearly the same size.

The Compact is widely available in the $350.00 range, and there is even a model with a threaded barrel to accept suppressors.

I find no fault with the Compact or the CT CMR-201.  For anyone wanting a low cost, high quality training weapon with a manual of arms identical, or close, to larger, centerfire handguns, the Compact is an outstanding choice.  Besides, it’s fun.  What more reason does one need?